Why did you pick this program?
I picked this program for a number of reasons. First off, I love to travel and experience new things. I was ready for an new adventure for the most part, but the truth is, life can really bite you in the butt sometimes. It's stressful, especially when you're in college. Traveling is beautiful. Traveling is an escape. This trip was a chance for me to get away for awhile and really find myself. I used it as a reminder of what people want most in their lives, for their dreams to come true. And that's exactly what I'm aspiring to do.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
Do it. Don't question it, even for a second. Traveling abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. You meet many incredible people, some of which will become your life long friends. Most importantly, you'll find yourself. It teaches you to have patience, compassion for others, and strength you never knew you had. You are pushed to your limits through a whirlwind of emotions. I can promise you, it isn't something you'd ever regret doing.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
The best advice I can give someone is to keep an open mind. Always try everything at least once. Face your fears, do something crazy, but always be true to yourself. My cousin does study abroad leadership programs and when I was about to leave for my trip she gave me the best advice I could have received. When on a study abroad program, you are with the same people for weeks to months at a time and you feel like you have to spend every waking second with them. Let me tell you, you don't. It's okay to break off from the group for a couple hours or even a night to relax and spend time alone. It keeps you sane and you'll be glad you did.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
I tell this story every chance I get. It wasn't an adventurous moment or anything extravagant, but simple, yet amazing. I can whole heartedly say the happiest moment in my life was on this trip. We were on North Keppel Island for a week long conservation project where the only form of civilization was an environmental learning center. During the day we would go to the center and volunteer with a group of children and at night we'd head back to our camp. One night, we were all laying on the beach looking up at the stars, which I've never seen so clearly in my life. It was silent but we could hear the ocean waves crashing against the shore. At that moment I was the happiest I have ever been, in a single moment I felt like every worry in the world was gone and my whole body was at peace. I have never had a more rewarding feeling than that night on the beach.
What has this program taught you?
A few things I have learned from travel: Living with a group and spending every waking second with them is hard, but one of the most rewarding experiences you can ever have. We may fight or may not always get along, but there is never a time when we turn our backs on each other. We know how to have fun and we know how to laugh, a lot. When traveling, there is never a time to be afraid, or hold back. Now is the time for us to adjust to new things, time to explore, and learn through experience.
“The journey is more important than where you end up.” This is a saying I have learned to live by. Everyone has a set goal they try to reach, but the nice thing about traveling is it teaches you that it’s okay to get lost sometimes. Some of the greatest things in life are found by accident. Like momma always says, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”